Karin Freeland

Speaker ~ Author ~ Life Coach

Karin Freeland

Life Coach ~ Speaker ~ Author

How To Overcome Negative Attitudes In The Workplace

Does your workplace have you walking on eggshells, trying to avoid all the negative attitudes littering the office? If so, you are likely feeling the draining effects from this type of environment. Many of the clients I coach cite this as a reason for wanting to change jobs or careers altogether.

Sure, we’ve all had a bad day at work! Who hasn’t? For the purposes of this blog, I’m talking about repeated behavior from the same employees. Left to fester for too long, negative behavior can become a viscous cycle ultimately extinguishing the remaining positive attitudes (even in remote offices). Negative attitudes tend to spread like a cancer and lead to lower company morale. It’s imperative that leaders do something to address the issue, but if they aren’t, you’ll need an approach to handle these Negative Nellys.

Further, once the bad attitudes become part of the company culture it’s very difficult to turn it around. It can lead to low employee satisfaction, disengaged employees, and high turnover. All of which are costly to the business.

While some employees may express valid frustrations that need to be addressed, most times it’s actually a result of neglected culture. Whether or not you are able to impact the culture of your organization, there are a few things you can do to deal with the negative attitudes in your workplace.   

Here are 5 things you can do to overcome negative attitudes:

1. Set a Positive Example:

The biggest mistake co-workers make is fighting fire with fire or in this case negativity with negativity. Instead, start by looking in the mirror and being honest about your own potential negative attitude. How are you showing up each day? How are you interacting with others? If it’s not modeling the positivity you seek from others, now is the time to fix that.

Take the time to reflect on the situations that seem to trigger negativity in you. Once you identify those triggers, you can make a gameplan for how to deal with them next time. For example, if you get angry every time one of your direct coworkers IMs you during meetings to complain, causing you to snap and complain to your peers, you’ll want to come up with a different approach. Instead, perhaps you could go for a brief walk or take 5 minutes to write down your feelings in a journal.

By keeping a positive attitude yourself, you’ll set the standard for office communication, inspiring others to be more cordial in return.

2. Get Curious

Most people don’t enjoy being negative. Therefore, there could be some underlying issues that are impacting your co-workers. Take a moment to ask them questions, preferably in private, to draw out what’s really going on. The key is to ask the questions in a way that won’t put them on the defensive. Blaming employees or yelling at them will not help them open up.

For example:

  • I felt like you were short with me in the staff meeting today, did I do something to upset you?
  • It sounds like you’ve been really frustrated lately, what seems to be bothering you? Is there anything I can help you with?
  • It looked like you were distracted in the team meeting today, is there something else going on that you’d like to talk about?

As you show you care for your fellow co-workers, they will come around and open up to you. You may be surprised to learn they are dealing with a divorce, an illness in the family, or something else in their job that you weren’t aware of. These insights will help you see your co-workers not as their attitude but as a fellow human that’s going through a rough time.

3. Reference your Company Values

Almost every company has a set of documented values that employees are to follow and embody while employed at that company. There is good reason for this, too. It helps everyone understand the standard for which they will need to operate.

Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the core values and use that as a reminder for troublesome employees. By helping your fellow employees remember how they should behave, according to the company policy, they will hopefully change their attitude at work.

If you are part of a small business that doesn’t have core values, now could be the time to sign up for an extra project and create them. That will give your business the best chance of improving employee culture before it’s too late.

4. Encourage Fun

Maybe the negative attitudes are a result of a boring workplace? Maybe it’s time to inject a little fun and deepen co-worker relationships.

If you’ve ever worked for a business that was bleeding customers and losing money, you know what a drain it can be on morale. It’s these times that organizations tend to cut all the fun out of business. Company picnics are cancelled, ice cream socials stop, and even bonuses are put on hold. It can be a dark time for employees and their attitudes will likely reflect that atmosphere.

If you can, seek ways to add lighthearted, humorous moments to the workday. The key is to avoid sarcasm and snarky comments that will only fuel the negativity in the office. Workplace humor can be a touchy subject, as everyone has a different sense of humor, so steer clear of jokes about age, race, gender, sexual preference, etc. When done right humor can go a long way to rehabilitating a negative culture.

5. Compliment Positive Attitudes

Whenever possible, praise those that are demonstrating the right attitude in the office. Recognizing those that are displaying positivity or actively changing their negative attitude at work will reinforce those behaviors and make employees feel valued.

It’s usually the positive employees that leave a toxic work environment first, so keeping them engaged by holding them up as an example will help ensure they stay during tough times. If you have a company rewards system, this can be a great way to show your appreciation. If you’re note sure, check with your HR team.

Do you need hands on help to overcome negative attitudes in the workplace? My corporate training Communicating with Impact will help your small business or organization learn how to handle different communication styles, which will improve both productivity and workplace culture. Learn more today.

Or if you’re an individual and would like to explore 1×1 career coaching, visit my life coaching page to learn more about how I can help you EDIT Your Life™.


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